Oslo gears up to tax fuelled vehicles

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Oslo’s Labour Party-led city government is continuing its campaign to make driving as difficult and expensive as possible within the city limits of Norway’s capital. Now the city’s political leadership, keen on cutting carbon emissions, wants to impose yet another new tax, this one on owners of diesel- and gasoline-driven vehicles.

Gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles have already been banned from Oslo on days of high air pollution, pay high tolls to drive into the city, and the gas (petrol) and diesel they use is heavily taxed. Now Oslo politicians want to impose additional taxes on the vehicles themselves. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the proposal comes after the city’s government coalition, made up of the Labour, Greens and Socialist Left (SV) parties, already has removed parking places to make way for bicycle lanes, imposed new restrictions on the street parking that remains, boosted tolls, added new toll plazas and outright banned diesel vehicles on days with high levels of air pollution.

They’re following that up by declaring the entire city as a “low emissions zone” in which only zero-emission vehicles can operate tax-free. All others, those fuelled by gasoline (petrol) and diesel, will probably get hit with the tax that may be charged on a daily, monthly or annual basis. The fuel itself, meanwhile, is already heavily taxed by the state and now runs as high as NOK 16 per liter, or nearly USD 8 per gallon.

Hybrid vehicles can be taxed, too
Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, the top Oslo politician in charge of transport and environmental issues for the Greens Party, told Aftenposten that heavy transport like semi-trailers and trucks would likely get hit first by the tax, possibly by the end of this year. Then the tax will be extended to other diesel- and gasoline-fuelled vehicles.

The new tax may even be imposed on hybrid vehicles, but Berg said city officials were still working on the new tax formula and how it would be applied. Only electric vehicles, emergency vehicles, those modified to carry handicapped passengers, military vehicles and embassy vehicles with diplomatic license plates are likely to be exempt.

Opposition politicians who think motorists in Oslo have already been through enough turmoil since the new Labour-Green-SV government won power in 2015 are wary of the new tax plan. Guri Melby of the Liberal Party, who served as Berg’s predecessor for many years, has called for more information from the city government but hasn’t received many answers.

“It’s important that we have an open debate on this,” Melby told Aftenposten. “We also must have a dialogue with the people and with businesses about what this will mean to them.”

Neighbours uneasy
Melby proposed something similar during her term in office and said her party encourages the use of zero-emission vehicles in Oslo, as long as taxes on conventional vehicles aren’t too onerous. Officials in neighbouring Akershus County, meanwhile, are already protesting Oslo’s new tax plans, noting that motorists are facing higher and new tolls on driving in or through Oslo as well. Akershus County Mayor Anette Solli of the Conservative Party worries the new tax will put an undue burden of expense on far too many vehicles owners who still must drive in lieu of using public transporation.

“This is something we all need to have a thorough discussion about,” Solli told Aftenposten. Like Melby, she had more questions than answers about exactly what the Oslo officials were planning and how much it would actually cost.

Berg contended she was open to cooperation with other politicians and to “finding a good solution, but stated that “at the same time, we are responsible for public health and must impose the measures we can (to cut emissions)” as a means of reducing air pollution.

“Our message is very clear to those considering buying a new vehicle, whether for business or private use,” Berg added. “It’s zero-emission vehicles that are the future in Oslo.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund